Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Opinion

Time to blow away the hot air

It was a normal night out for Michelle in a club in Sicily, until a man approached her on the dance floor, trying to chat her up. She turned down his advances. But something in her voice struck this man and so he struck Michelle.

Soon all his friends joined in, crowding around, punching and kicking her. She was left seriously injured. What was it about Michelle that made these men turn so aggressive? As she spoke to turn down the unwanted attention, the man realised that she was trans.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • One in four LGBTI respondents said they had been attacked or threatened in the last five years (Photo: Transgender Netwerk Nederland)

As she puts it, “They wanted to butcher me just because of who I am, because I have a face that is a bit masculine and because they understood I was a trans person from my voice.”

Transphobic and homophobic violence can happen anywhere: on the street, in a bar or a club, in schools or even at home, yet no-one really knows the exact extent of this violence. This is partly because only a minority of EU countries collect data on homophobic hate crimes.

Even fewer, just five, collect data on transphobic hate crimes.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is estimated that 80 percent of these crimes go unreported. But an EU wide survey published earlier this year by the Fundamental Rights Agency gives some insight into the scale of the problem.

A whopping one in four LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) respondents said they had been attacked or threatened in the last five years. Although a depressing figure, it is hardly surprising.

Institutionalised homophobia and transphobia remain pervasive in police forces, the judiciary and educational establishments throughout the EU.

In the same survey, seven out of 10 respondents said they had always or often hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at school.

Michelle, however, did report her attack and did not hide the motive. She told the police about the derogatory language that was used by her assailants. Her trial is pending, but regrettably, the transphobic hate motive will not be explicitly taken into account. This is because currently Italy does not recognise sexual orientation or gender identity as grounds for hate crimes. Her attack will simply be treated as some drunken brawl.

Does it matter? Well, yes, it does.

This kind of hate motivated attack has a particularly detrimental and long-term impact on victims. And it creates a climate of fear for the LGBTI community. In effect, it means that people stop being who they are and go into hiding, so as not to expose themselves to this kind of violence.

Not investigating and acknowledging the hate motive in prosecution and sentencing allows the discrimination to continue - discrimination that is prohibited in international human rights standards and EU law. We recognise hate crimes based on ethnicity and race, so why not those based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

This is the question that must be put to governments.

Some EU countries have already made the change. But many others, such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Latvia still need to urgently address this issue.

The EU should also set an example by including sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for hate crimes when it reviews its Framework Decision on hate crimes later this year.

As the decision currently stands, xenophobic or racist motives associated with a crime must be taken into account either as aggravating circumstances during the trial or when determining penalties.

As sexual orientation and gender identity are discrimination grounds prohibited under EU law, the EU should extend the scope of this instrument to include hate crimes motivated by these grounds.

In June the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on fundamental rights which talked of “the need to counter extreme forms of intolerance, such as... homophobia."

If we’re serious about tackling homophobia and transphobia, then the EU and its members must close these legislative gaps and start collecting data on these crimes.

Authorities must also put in place training to ensure that at all levels those in the police, judiciary and health service understand this discrimination and can spot these crimes.

If we cannot take these basic steps, then all talk of combating homophobia and transphobia will remain hot air.

The author is director of Amnesty International’s European institutions office in Brussels

Focus

EU ministers urge Reding to do more for gay rights

Fourteen member states have backed a petition urging the European Commission to do more for the rights of sexual minorities, with the last major initiative several years ago.

Focus

Bulgaria and Italy trail in EU on gay rights legislation

Sexual minorities have the most legal protection in the UK while Bulgaria and Italy trail among EU countries when it comes to equality rights and legislation against homophobic violence and hate speech.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  2. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  3. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  4. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'
  5. 25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact
  6. Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem
  7. French centre-right elects new leader
  8. Germany and UK increase arms sales

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  2. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  3. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  4. From dark coal toward a brighter future
  5. UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist
  6. Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership
  7. Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants
  8. No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level